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Function key tricks for Windows and Mac

Function Fn keys on your keyboard, though neglected, have a special role to play in Microsoft Office. Sometimes they combine with Ctrl, Alt or Shift keys to provide certain functions. Here’s how to use Fn keys when they’re on smaller laptop keyboards or totally missing! Plus how Microsoft Office’s help is no help at all with Function Keys.

Fn key and Fn lock

The Function keys have been a little neglected because many laptop keyboards have them as secondary selections instead of buttons to quickly press. i.e hold down the Fn to access the Function option and there’s also a Fn lock option to keep the keys as Functions. 

The dark red F labels are small and fade into the black background. Over time they can wear away and disappear completely!

On Screen Function keys

If you need a Function key (maybe to follow some instructions) and they aren’t on your keyboard, one alternative is an on-screen keyboard (OSK).


Windows 11/10 has an OSK at Settings | Ease of Access | Keyboard.  Press the Fn key to show the Function keys.

See also When F9 and other Fn keys don’t work in Word or Excel


Mac users have a similar on-screen keyboard with an Fn button at bottom left.  Go to Apple menu | System Preferences | Accessibility | Keyboard | Accessibility Keyboard | Enable Accessibility Keyboard.

Microsoft Office “Tell Me” — no help

Microsoft’s much hyped ‘Tell Me’ help is no help when it comes to Function keys. The system doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the Fn shortcuts. Instead, it shows irrelevant results to the function key (F9 commands relate to Field Codes).

F9 = Set Zoom to 100% ??? No it does NOT.

When we last checked ‘Crop Tools’ appeared for a search on F9 which makes no more sense than ‘Set Zoom …’ does now. But then Microsoft’s much hyped “Tell Me” pretty much ignores keyboard shortcuts altogether.

See When F9 and other Fn keys don’t work in Word or Excel

Complete Function Keys in Microsoft Word

Why are Microsoft Keyboards so damn annoying?

KeyTips are your way to faster Microsoft Office

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